Published: Tue, February 26, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Craig Coley given $21m for false murder charge

Craig Coley given $21m for false murder charge

The monetary cost of going to trial would be astronomical and it would be irresponsible for us to move forward in that direction, ' City Manager Eric Levitt said.

Jerry Brown, who said DNA evidence and re-investigation proved Coley's innocence in the 1978 murders of 24-year-old Rhonda Wicht and her son.

Police found Wicht beaten and strangled with a rope in her apartment on November 11, 1978, while her son had been smothered to death in his bed.

Bender has said that in 2015, he caught the right ear in Brown's office.

Craig Coley, pictured in February 2018, was accused of killing his girlfriend and her 4-year-old son.

In an application for clemency that Coley himself filed from prison several years ago, he said a former police detective had framed him by destroying crucial evidence.

He did not have a prior criminal record.

The compensation will be paid by the city of Simi Valley as part of an out-of-court settlement. Police said past year they were hoping the Golden State Killer might help them solve the case, but he, too, was cleared by DNA, the Ventura County Star reported.

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The neighbor who heard noises from downstairs first told police that he heard the commotion not at 5:30 a.m., but an hour earlier, right when Coley was out socializing.

A retired Simi Valley detective named Mike Bender was instrumental in pushing law enforcement agencies to reexamine the case.

At trial, police testified that there were no signs of forced entry at Wicht's home and that a key to an inside door lock had been found on the floor of her apartment. A second jury convicted him of two counts of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

"There was nobody else there to fight for the guy, so I just continued the fight", Bender told CNN past year.

In 2017, investigators in Simi Valley found "biological samples" - which the judge presiding over Coley's case had ordered to be destroyed in 1980 - at a private laboratory.

The new investigation also raised questions about Wicht's next-door neighbour's claim that she had seen a man matching Coley's description drive away the morning of the killings.

None of the DNA matched that of Mr Coley. When Brown officially exonerated Coley, he flatly stated, "I grant this pardon because Mr. Coley did not commit these crimes".

Ron Kaye, a lawyer representing Coley, said the settlement offered some closure and vindication for his client, though no amount of money could compensate him for the life he missed.

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